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Kudzu and the American Dream

05 Jun

One of the most memorable things about a vacation trip to the Southeastern United States a few years back was the kudzu. Mile after mile native trees and shrubs and even man-made poles and structures are covered with the stuff, often completely obscuring the original object. Like something out of “Jumanji” these thick green vines crawl up and wind around everything until entire landscapes are completely transformed.

In and of itself, this plant is kind of attractive. It has medicinal properties and makes for good animal feed. Scientists are finding new and beneficial uses for the plant in treatment of alcoholism, cancer, migraines, allergies and diarrhea. But left unchecked this non-native plant becomes of the most invasive in the United States landscape.

On a plane yesterday this memory came back to me (“out of the clear, blue sky”) and it came while I was pondering a book I’d just finished called Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt in which “The American Dream” is exposed for the dangers it poses in the believer’s life. While not evil in itself and useful for many good things, the lifestyle that comes with obtaining “The American Dream” can take over a person’s life until the only thing you see are those things. The things are like kudzu that has now obscured the true aim and purpose of the Christian. Nothing about that person’s life looks any different from the next door neighbor pursuing the same dream but without Christ.

I am fifty years old now and quite confident I have wasted a good many of those years in the comfortable, selfish, unscriptural practices of the ineffective pseudo-Christian life. I completely missed the boat on what it means to live a cross-centered life. I did not count the cost so I did not pay the cost. Instead, I let what many American Christians honor and condone, The American Dream, become a very real and central part of my life. Instead of using God-given resources to largely serve others, I let them largely serve me, and they gradually took over my life to the point where you could not tell the difference between my kudzu-covered life and a well-behaved non-believer. What a sad testimony.

I highly recommend Platt’s book to any Christ-follower who is dissatisfied with The American Dream or wanting something far more than the temporary goods they have obtained. Other books with similar messages include Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper and Crazy Love by Francis Chan. But lest you become overwhelmed or lean towards guilt and remorse (as I am prone to do), you would do well to also read Holiness by Grace by Bryan Chapell in which he makes a beautiful and scriptural argument for God’s powerful grace and mercy and how He values the worker who comes late to the harvest.

For those starting out their careers and who also love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength: Beware the kudzu of The American Dream. Guard your heart against the desire for comfort and seek first the kingdom of God and the Treasure that cannot be bought but is freely given. It will joyfully cost you your life and that life will never be wasted.

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